Amanda is currently working to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. Where she is studying the behavior of fossil birds as interpreted through their footprints and other traces. Amanda recently traveled to South Korea to study Early Cretaceous bird tracks and has published two papers on fossil bird tracks, one in the journal Palaios and one in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology. Next, she will study Early Cretaceous fossil birds and bird tracks in China.
"My experience at Lake State, preparing an Undergraduate Thesis and seeing the project through definitely helped prepare me for graduate school. The interaction between the professors and the students at Lake State is far more similar to the interaction between a graduate student and their graduate advisor than the typical undergraduate student / undergraduate advisor rapport; it's much more personalized. It definitely helped prepare me for grad school."
Amanda Falk '07
Biology, minor in Chemistry
School of Biological Sciences
Originally home to native species of freshwater fish, the
aquarium that calls the Crawford Hall lobby home has recently
undergone extensive remodeling. John Griffioen, an LSSU biology major, recognized the
potential of a fully functioning coral reef system in a
high-traffic area on the University's campus. With the help of generous companies and individuals, students have
raised well over $3,000 in supplies, equipment, and livestock
for this project. Over the course of two semesters, the
existing fish were given new homes, the tank was drained,
thoroughly cleaned, plumbed, and refilled with saltwater, live
rock, and sand. The new system
saw the addition of an overflow, a sump filtration system, and
a new lighting fixture, capable of supporting the corals that
would soon call this aquarium home. Throughout the course of the
next few semesters livestock was added to the system, and
various upgrades and tweaks were made to the plumbing and
The saltwater aquarium is now home to a variety of
organisms. The most popular organisms are likely the mated
pair of ocellaris clownfish that have adopted not one, but two
of the bubble-tip anemones in the tank. The aquarium is also
home to other species of reef fish including wrasses and a
sand-sifiting diamond goby. Additionally, the reef tank
harbors many species of invertebrates. Emerald crabs, cleaner
shrimp, blue-leg hermit crabs, and cerith snails all cruise
the rocks and sand looking to pick up their next meal. Various
soft, small polyp, and large polyp corals also have found a
place on the reef. These corals range from colonial organisms
such as zooanthids, to larger stony corals such as frogspawn,
or the fan-like gorgonian that dominates much of one side.
Although this reef aquarium supports several species of organisims it provides only a hint of what
an actual coral reef looks like. Herein lies the ultimate
purpose of this display, to bring awareness to
the beauty, diversity, and delicacy of coral reef ecosystems.
Coral reefs rival tropical rainforests in biodiversity and
are certainly the most diverse aquatic system in the world.
Reefs harbor 25% of all known marine species and are
unique in their structure and function. The interactions
amongst species and the amazing adaptations found on the reef
are hard to comprehend without a visual example. However, these
incredibly intricate ecosystems are also quite delicate and
are facing destruction. Pollution, improper collection, and
overfishing threaten these complex and beautiful communities.
The future of this saltwater aquarium now lies in the area
of education and awareness. The student organizers of this
project hope to soon display informative signs near the aquarium to raise awareness within the University
community about the complexity and importance of coral reef
ecosystems. Equipment and
livestock changes will be pursued to improve the health and appeal of the system. Currently the project is run almost
exclusively on donations from aquarium companies and generous
community members. If you would like to donate to this
project and further the work of these students, please contact
Lake Superior State University staff member Mary St. Antoine
Generous Contributions Provided:
Richard & Karen Serfass
Moby Dick Pet Store Inc.
In memory of Ray Reilly - Professor Emeritus
Investigat- ing the Use of QPCR: An Early Detection Method for Toxic Cyano- bacterial Bloom
Harmful algal blooms (HABs), including cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (CHABs), are a global phenomenon. In the US, annual economic loss due to HABs was recently estimated at $82 million. Furthermore, the consensus amongst the scientific community is that the frequency and duration of CHABs in freshwater systems will increase as a result of climate change and anthropogenic nutrient enrichment. Due to the ability of some strains of CHAB genera to produce toxic compounds, larger and more sustained CHAB events will become an even greater threat to drinking water. Of all the known cyantoxoins, one of the most ubiquitous is microcystin (MCY). Humans are primarily exposed to cyantoxins through drinking water consumption and accidental ingestion of recreational water. The increasing risk presented by these toxins requires health officials and utilities to improve their ability to track the occurrence and relative toxicity. Current tracking methods do not distinguish between toxic and non-toxic strains. Biochemical techniques for analyzing the toxins are showing considerable potential as they are relatively simple to run and low cost. My goal was to develop a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) method to measure the amount of mcyE gene in a Lake Erie drinking water and compare the levels of the mcyE to toxin produced. This is the first step to determining if the presence of mcyE of the mycrocystin synthestase gene cluster in Microcystits, Planktothrix and Anabaena cells can be used as the quantitative measurement in an early detection warning system for recreational and drinking waters.